POST 13: IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A PUBLIC DEBATE ABOUT CHINA AND WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S CONNECTIONS?

West Australia politician criticises the McGowan government for trying to stifle debate about the Chinese Communist party.

Charles Smith, Member of the State Legislative Council called out Tourism Minster Paul Papalia for attempting to stifle debate about China’s growing influence in Australia. Mr Papalia warned of the potentially catastrophic effect negative language about China poses for WA’s economy, saying the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of West Australians could be put at risk.[1]

However, the influence of the Chinese government in Australia is growing.  Take for example, the Australian education sector. Agreements signed by the University of Queensland, Griffith University, La Trobe University and Charles Darwin University state that they must accept the assessment of the Confucius Institute (a key organisation of the Chinese Communist Party’s global soft power effort) on the teaching quality at Australian universities..[2] The New South Wales Department of Education has expelled a Chinese government language program from State schools due to fears of potential foreign influence.[3] In Western Australia the Hanban (the Beijing-based headquarters that funds and oversees the global network of Confucius Institute) provides funding to teach programs at the University of WA.[4]

Australian Migration policy and China.

In terms of immigration, China is now the second highest source of permanent migrants to Australia, behind India. The UK was (up until a few years back) Australia’s primary source of settlers before and after Federation in 1901. It is now positioned third with much less permanent migrants than India or China. This represents a big cultural shift in Australian migration policy (See Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Top ten source countries of permanent migrants in Australia 2017-18

(Source: Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, 2018.[5])

Australia is the first western country to be granted Approved Destination Status by the Chinese Communist Government, permitting Chinese tourism in Australia. Western Australia had 61,000 visitors and over 8,400 students from China in 2018. China is Western Australia’s largest market for international students.[6]

West Australian citizens have every right to question the economic and migration policy direction the State Labor Party are taking the West Australian community – leading to closer ties with an Authoritarian Communist Party. Nobody is suggesting WA should stop trading with China. They are WA’s biggest export market (47% of total exports).[7] But West Australian citizens unlike Chinese nationals reside in a free and open democracy and should be able to openly debate China.

The WA State Labor governments trade relationship with China.

China is the major foreign buyer of West Australian resources (see Table 1 below). Table 1 demonstrates that Western Australia does not have a large export portfolio of many countries. Western’s Australia’s exports to advanced economies, for example Europe, are very low in comparison to Asian markets. Two nations, China and Japan make up 63% of exports and China is far ahead of the rest on 47% share of exports.

Table 1: Western Australia’s major trading partners: 2018.

(Source: Government of Western Australia Department of Treasury.[8])

China is the States major export destination and driver of Gross State Product (GSP). [9] China has been WA’s largest market for merchandise exports since 2006.[10] Does the economic reliance on Communist China put West Australian politicians in a comprising position when it comes to debating the growing impacts of China in West Australia?

Western Australia has become reliant on the import of manufactured products from China. This included furniture, metal and industrial manufactured goods and equipment. China was Western Australia’s largest import market in 2018. And this has more than doubled from just over $2 billion in 2008 to $4.7 billion in 2018. This was above the annual average of $4.0 billion. [11]

The State Labor government may want to look at promoting West Australian manufacturing.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics census on Population and Housing for 2011 and 2016 reveal the manufacture sector has been hit hardest by the loss of 25,831 jobs in the space of 5 years (see table 2 below). This equates to employment positions in West Australia’s manufacturing industries contracting by 29% . This is of real concern and it is a pity the State labor government have done very little since taking office to try to turn this around. Western Australia has several well-serviced and highly technological Industrial hubs. There is the Wangara/Landsdale Industrial area, which has several metal manufacturers and fabricators. There is also the Neerabup industrial area in the Northern suburbs recently developed and with opportunities for growth in manufacturing industries.

Table 2: Industry sector of employment Western Australia, ABS census 2011 and 2016.
[table id=32 /]
(Source: id the Population Experts.[12])

Companies in Landsdale for example, have established commerce in Perth Metropolitan and WA Regional markets with related sectors making manufacturing and fabrication products for the larger mining companies based in the Henderson industrial area and in the alumina refinement industries of Kwinana and South West WA region. There is also documentation transparency and quality control checking and auditing between related manufacturing, mining and fabrication companies in Western Australia. This is well-established good practice and essential for high standards to be maintained in technical and trade skills and completed products.

Given the potential for high skilled jobs and kick starting manufacturing in Western Australia – helping to get some tens of thousands of West Australians back into employment. The McGowan government could look at the competitive advantages of Western Australia’s high standard education system and technical Training colleges such as TAFE. There are also productivity advantages on relying more on West Australians to fill job vacancies or to plan ahead and train them up for forthcoming projects. For example, the advantages of there English communication skills which are superior to workers from non-English speaking countries. And there are lots of unemployed Western Australians and Year 11/12 school leavers available to take up good paying jobs and learn good long-term durable skills. There are nearly 90,000 West Australians unemployed and a youth unemployment (age 15-24) rate of 11.2%.[13] Many of West Australia’s unemployed could gain the skills required to grow manufacturing here instead of importing nearly $5 billon worth of products from China.[14]

Closing comments.

This might be a good time to diversify the State’s economy especially with growing concerns about the Chinese Communist Party and its political agenda in Australia and West Australia?  In 2018, Western Australia was the most concentrated (least diversified) economy across the nation. [15]

References.

[1] Joe Spagnolo, ‘Tourism Minister Paul Papalia Warns MPs Not to Speak Negatively about China in Wake of Andrew Hastie’s Comments’, The West Australian, 2019 <https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/tourism-minister-paul-papalia-warns-mps-not-to-speak-negatively-about-china-in-wake-of-andrew-hasties-comments-ng-b881302127z> [accessed 25 August 2019].

[2] Fergus Hunter, ‘Universities Must Accept China’s Directives on Confucius Institutes, Contracts Reveal’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2019 <https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/universities-must-accept-china-s-directives-on-confucius-institutes-contracts-reveal-20190724-p52ab9.html> [accessed 25 August 2019].

[3] Danuta Kozaki, ‘“Extraordinarily Damning” Report Sees China-Funded Programs Thrown out of NSW Schools’, ABC News, 2019 <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-23/nsw-government-scraps-confucius-classroom-foreign-influence-fear/11440936> [accessed 25 August 2019].

[4] Fergus Hunter.

[5] Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’, 2018 <https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-statistics/statistics/visa-statistics/live/migration-program> [accessed 2 September 2019].

[6] Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, ‘Western Australia China Trade Profile April 2019’, 2019 <https://www.jtsi.wa.gov.au/> [accessed 26 August 2019].

[7] Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

[8] Government of Western Australia Department of Treasury, ‘GSP – Department of Treasury Western Australia’, 2018 <https://www.treasury.wa.gov.au/Treasury/Economic_Data/GSP/> [accessed 3 September 2019].

[9] Government of Western Australia Department of Treasury.

[10] Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

[11] Government of Western Australia Department of Treasury.

[12] .id The population experts, ‘Western Australia Industry Sector of Employment’, 2019 <https://profile.id.com.au/australia/industries?WebID=140> [accessed 2 September 2019].

[13] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘6202.0 – Labour Force, Australia, Jun 2019’, 2019 <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6202.0> [accessed 27 July 2019].

[14] Kimberly Amadeo, ‘What Is Competitive Advantage? Three Strategies That Work’, The Balance, 2019 <https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-competitive-advantage-3-strategies-that-work-3305828> [accessed 5 September 2019].

[15] Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, ‘Future-Proofing the WA Economy: A Road Map to Industrial Diversitfication and Regional Growth’, 2019 <https://bcec.edu.au/publications/future-proofing-the-wa-economy/> [accessed 30 August 2019].

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